By the time a player hits his third season, his career could take off in a new successful direction.…
Patterson’s progression likely speeding up
Patterson made the Pro Bowl as a rookie return man, but the expectation of some is that he will return to Hawaii as a wide receiver at the end of 2014 season. Patterson is an emerging star at wide receiver, but the Vikings never fully exploited their young weapon. Instead, they gave football fans a blueprint of how a young, raw talent is brought along.
The Vikings coaching staff had a plan with Patterson last year and it meant incremental exposure to defenses that rarely wavered. His playing time increased at a methodical level throughout the season and, while he finished third on the team in receptions behind Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson, it would appear as though it was by design rather than luck.
Patterson started slowly with the offense, being used on a limited, but growing basis throughout the early portion of the season. In the first two games, Patterson was in on just nine percent of offensive players, fewer than reserve Joe Webb, but, over the next few weeks, his numbers would consistently, but slowly rise.
In Weeks 3 and 4 prior to the Vikings bye week, Patterson’s percentage of offensive plays spent on the field increased to 24 percent in Week 3 and 25 percent in Week 4 – numbers that still kept him behind No. 3 receiver Jarius Wright, but a significant increase over the first couple of games.
Over the next three weeks, it appeared as though Patterson was a on a play count, but a count that was eerily identical – 31 percent of plays in Week 6 following the bye week, 31 percent in Week 7 and 32 percent in Week 8.
It was only at midseason that Patterson’s numbers really started to grow. In Week 8, he was on the field for 37 percent of the Vikings snaps. The following week, that number increased to 40 percent and the increase was growing.
Week 11 marked the first time that Patterson was involved in more the 50 percent of plays. With Jennings sidelined, Patterson was on the field for 58 percent of the offensive snaps and, even after he returned, Patterson’s playing time remained relatively steady – 52 percent in Week 12, 56 percent in Week 13, 76 percent in Week 14, 56 percent in Week 15, 65 percent in Week 16 and 55 percent in the season finale.
Considering the incremental increase in playing time that Patterson experienced last year, his first season with Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator could be the breakout he wanted last year. Patterson is going to be on the field considerably more. His high water mark for playing time for any game during his rookie season was 76 percent in Week 14. Barring injury, that may well be his average or even on the downside of his average in 2014.
Coaches say it typically takes wide receivers two or three years to adjust and thrive in the NFL game, and there are literally hundreds of wide receivers who have borne that out in their production numbers from Season 1 to Season 2 and Season 2 to Season 3. Patterson provides a blueprint of how that ascent begins. As a rookie, it was a relatively slow process of baby-step increases in playing time.
The true test will be this year. Patterson is going to be unleashed on a full-time basis and may end up being as critical as any player in determining the level of success the Vikings offense will enjoy this season.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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